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  • Author or Editor: Robin G. Brumfield x
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This study assessed the material and energy inputs required to produce a Petunia ×hybrida plant from initial propagation to delivery at a regional distribution center. Impacts were expressed in terms of their contribution to the carbon footprint or global warming potential (GWP) of a single finished plant in a ≈10-cm diameter container. Beyond this baseline assessment, the study investigated the secondary impacts (e.g., irrigation demand) associated with container type used. Life cycle assessment data were sourced from interviews, published literature, propriety data sources, direct metering at the greenhouse facility, and original findings from a series of university greenhouse experiments. Results show that a traditional plastic container accounts for ≈16% of overall CO2e emissions (0.544 kg) during petunia production. Although the container was a significant contributor to GWP, electrical consumption for supplemental lighting and irrigation during plug production proved to be the leading source of CO2e emissions (over 47%) in our model system. Differences in GWP when considering secondary impacts associated with the various biocontainers were minor, especially when compared with the other elements of production. Our results demonstrate that biocontainers could potentially be as or more sustainable than plastic pots once pot manufacturing and end-of-life data are considered. However, use of more efficient supplemental lighting sources may ultimately have the greatest impact on overall GWP for the production system assessed.

Free access

Management of agricultural irrigation water is extremely important as fresh water resources are being depleted on a global scale. In anticipation of regulatory restrictions, several greenhouse and nursery operations in New Jersey have implemented systems that disinfect and recycle their irrigation water. This study compared the disinfection methods at two greenhouses and three container nurseries, focusing on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of using chlorine gas, ultraviolet light, ozone, and copper for water disinfection. The data were collected during on-site visits where the growers were interviewed on camera. A cost analysis was performed, but the most efficient disinfection technique could not be determined due to the variability between businesses and various unquantifiable benefits of proactive water management recycling, such as improved plant health, decreased fungicide and fertilizer use, a cleaner operation, reduced runoff, reduced pressure on aquifers, and increased customer satisfaction. The investment and maintenance costs per hectare and 1000 L were calculated, which can be useful reference tools for growers. The net present value (NPV) of each disinfection system was calculated to analyze the profitability of the investments. All three container nurseries had positive NPV values and profitable investments, which improved with cost sharing from the National Resource Conservation Service. This information will be useful in the future as growers throughout the state, and country, may be required to deal with the stricter regulation of their irrigation runoff.

Free access

Abstract

Economic efficiencies were greatest in peak sales periods in surveyed floricultural firms selling both to retail florists, and mass markets. Efficiency decreased in intermediate and slack sales periods. About the same procedures were followed in each time period, but sales were reduced in intermediate, and slack periods. Surveyed firms selling to mass markets sold bedding plants during peak periods which required no variable labor or capital marketing inputs; thus, they were more technically efficient than firms selling to retail florists during the peak period. Economies of size were found in the retail florist channel but not in the mass market channel. Maximum economic efficiency was reached at a smaller size by firms selling to mass markets, indicating that the mass market channel was more competitive in the marketing function than was the retail florist channel. Large differences in technical efficiency were found within groups, indicating that increased profit could be made by the least efficient firms adopting the efficient technology of the most efficient firms within the same group. Within groups, the most efficient firms utilized more fully their fixed inputs than did the least efficient, and were thus able to expend a reduced percentage of sales on variable inputs. A persistant problem for the least efficient firms, especially during slack periods, was a delivery cost larger than that of the most efficient firms resulting from an increase in distance and number of stops.

Open Access

Abstract

The total costs of producing Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum, Thunb.) were developed for firms with 1,800 m2, 9,000 m2, and 36,000 m2 of production area. Economies of size existed in 2 market channels (mass market and full service florist). The total costs of Easter lilies to producers in the mass market marketing channel, including the cost of 6.31% bulbs that did not emerge, were $2.08, $1.83, and $1.63 per pot for the 1.800 m2, 9,000 m2, and 36,000 m2 firms, respectively. Costs were $0.48, $0.36, and $0.32 higher per pot for the florist producers than for the mass market producers for the small, medium, and large firms, respectively.

Open Access

Annie’s Project: Farming in New Jersey’s Cities and the Urban Fringe focused on the following five areas of risk identified by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: financial, production, marketing/price, legal/institutional, and human/personnel. Additional education regarding urban farming topics included securing suitable land, dealing with contaminated soils and alternative growing medias, and securing water for crop production. We delivered a series of six 3-hour evening classes to 23 producers. We administered a retrospective evaluation at the conclusion of the series and distributed an evaluation survey 6 months after training. Both evaluations found that participants increased their understanding of farm risks. Furthermore, they indicated they were better able to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their farm business activities.

Open Access

Greenhouse growers find themselves under increasing pressure to respond to consumer preferences to use environmentally sustainable practices and materials while maintaining profitable operations. These consumer preferences reflect a mounting awareness of the environmental issues, such as climate change and their associated social costs. Ideally, sustainable horticultural production accounts for both traditional economic considerations and such social costs, some of which can be explained through the calculation of global warming potential (GWP). An obvious candidate for a sustainable intervention is the traditional plastic pot, which growers can replace with alternative biocontainers with varying degrees of GWP. This study calculates the variability of direct costs of production using alternative containers to offer a comparison of social and economic costs. We evaluated these direct costs of producing petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) grown in pots made of traditional plastic, bioplastic, coir, manure, peat, bioplastic sleeve, slotted rice hull, solid rice hull, straw, wood fiber, and recycled reground plastic containers used in a previous assessment of GWP. Our analysis of the costs when using a traditional plastic pot showed that the highest contributors to GWP were different from the highest contributors to direct costs, revealing that the price does not reflect the environmental impact of several inputs. Electricity, the plastic shuttle tray, and the plastic pot contributed most to GWP, whereas labor, the plastic container, and paclobutrozol growth regulator contributed most to direct cost of production (COP). At 64% of total cost, labor was the most expensive input. Watering by hand added another $0.37–$0.54 per plant in labor. When we analyzed input costs of each alternative container separately, container type had the largest impact on total direct costs. Before adding container costs, the direct COP ranged from $0.56 to $0.61 per plant. After adding containers, costs ranged from $0.61 to $0.97 per plant. Wood fiber pots were the most expensive and recycled reground plastic pots were the least expensive in this study. Based on our assessment and the observed small variation in GWP between alternative containers, growers would benefit from selecting a container based on price and consumer demand. Some social costs that we are not aware of yet may be associated with some or all biocontainers.

Free access

The recent increased market demand for locally grown produce is generating interest in the application of techniques developed for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to urban agriculture (UA). Controlled environments have great potential to revolutionize urban food systems, as they offer unique opportunities for year-round production, optimizing resource-use efficiency, and for helping to overcome significant challenges associated with the high costs of production in urban settings. For urban growers to benefit from CEA, results from studies evaluating the application of controlled environments for commercial food production should be considered. This review includes a discussion of current and potential applications of CEA for UA, references discussing appropriate methods for selecting and controlling the physical plant production environment, resource management strategies, considerations to improve economic viability, opportunities to address food safety concerns, and the potential social benefits from applying CEA techniques to UA. Author’s viewpoints about the future of CEA for urban food production are presented at the end of this review.

Free access

As high-input systems, plant production facilities for liner and container plants use large quantities of water, fertilizers, chemical pesticides, plastics, and labor. The use of renewable and biodegradable inputs for growing aesthetically pleasing and healthy plants could potentially improve the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of current production systems. However, costs for production components to integrate sustainable practices into established systems have not been fully explored to date. Our objectives were to determine the economic costs of commercial production systems using alternative containers in aboveground nursery systems. We determined the cost of production (COP) budgets for two woody plant species grown in several locations across the United States. Plants were grown in plastic pots and various alternative pots made from wood pulp (WP), fabric (FB), keratin (KT), and coconut fiber (coir). Cost of production inputs for aboveground nursery systems included the plant itself (liner), liner shipping costs, pot, pot shipping costs, substrate, substrate shipping costs, municipal water, and labor. Our results show that the main difference in the COP is the price of the pot. Although alternative containers could potentially increase water demands, water is currently an insignificant cost in relation to the entire production process. Use of alternative containers could reduce the carbon, water, and chemical footprints of nurseries and greenhouses; however, the cost of alternative containers must become more competitive with plastic to make them an acceptable routine choice for commercial growers.

Free access